CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois head coach Lovie Smith has declined to give an update on the injury status of wide receiver Ricky Smalling.
“A status? He’s getting better,” the Illini fourth-year coach said Monday when asked if he could comment on his optimism about getting the junior receiver back on the field this season.
In his Monday media conference, Smith went to his common refrain of not being able to judge anything about injuries until Tuesday morning when the Illini begin practices for a home game against Rutgers (2-6, 0-5) on Saturday (2:30 p.m., BTN). However, Smalling has now missed each of the last two wins for the Illini (4-4, 2-3 in Big Ten) and Smith declined to comment or clarify if he’ll be available again in the 2019 campaign.
Smalling went down with a severe lower-body injury in the 24-23 victory over then-No. 6 Wisconsin on Oct. 19. Smalling was unable to put much, if any, weight on his right leg after going down near the visitors sideline on the first offensive play against the Badgers nearly a month ago.
Smith hinted last week on Monday that an announcement may be coming on junior wide receiver Trevon Sidney and less than 24 hours later, after Tuesday’s practice, Smith confirmed Sidney’s 2019 season was over after having surgery.
Despite missing the last two games, Smalling still leads Illinois in receptions with 24 and is second on the team in receiving yards (225). In the 24-6 win at Purdue last weekend, freshman Casey Washington received his first career start. Washington, a 6-foot-2 former three-star prospect by 247Sports.com and ESPN.com, has only two receptions for 38 yards this season but had a key fourth-quarter catch in the come-from-behind upset win over Wisconsin two weeks ago.